University at Buffalo to Welcome First Female American Indian Dentist

Posted on 10/30/2019

Jessica Ann Rickert, first female American Indian dentist

“A dental career is not even a remote consideration for most American Indian young people. This is due, in part, to the fact that most have never even seen an American Indian dentist.”

Jessica Ann Rickert, first female American Indian dentist

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Jessica Ann Rickert, DDS, will visit the University at Buffalo to share her journey in becoming the first female American Indian dentist in the world.

During the event, “Change Perceptions… Go Beyond Expectations,” Rickert will also address the alarming shortage of American Indians in dental schools across the United States.

The program, which is sponsored by the UB School of Dental Medicine, is scheduled for Oct. 23 at 5 p.m. in the Harriman Hall ballroom. The event is free and open to the public.

“We at the University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine are honored to have the first female American Indian dentist, Dr. Jessica Rickert, accept our invitation to speak at our dental school. All of our students, staff and faculty excitedly look forward to this historical event,” says Othman Shibly, DDS, clinical professor and assistant dean for diversity and inclusion in the UB School of Dental Medicine.

Nonexistent in dentistry

Nearly 10,500 students applied to attend dental school in the United States this fall. Just 16 of those students are American Indian, according to the American Dental Education Association.

The barriers to higher education for American Indian students are numerous: inadequate federal funding of secondary education programs on tribal lands, transportation challenges, a history of social injustices, cultural dissonance and a shortage of American Indian educators.

The result is that American Indians are largely nonexistent in dentistry.  

Despite American Indians comprising 3% of the country’s population, they make up 0.2% of dentists, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Indian Health Services, an HHS division that provides medical and health services to American Indian and Alaska Native communities, are also severely understaffed.

“I strongly feel that an ideal solution to the shortage of dentists in Indian country is to increase the number of American Indian dentists from federally recognized tribes,” said Rickert. “A dental career is not even a remote consideration for most American Indian young people. This is due, in part, to the fact that most have never even seen an American Indian dentist.

“I do not believe the American Indian dental dilemma is a hopeless situation. It simply requires all of us involved in the dental profession to step up and help. There are plenty of smart and capable American Indian students who could become marvelous dentists if they were guided in the right direction.”

Media Contact Information: Marcene RobinsonNews Content Manager, Dental Medicine, Libraries, Nursing, Pharmacy, [email protected]